Afghanistan veterans spread message of support

Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 6:24 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 18, 2021 at 7:14 PM EDT
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan this week is having a traumatic impact on some veterans who served in the war and are seeing 20 years of work dismantled in days. Kelly O’Brien spoke with two North Country veterans who served nearly a decade apart and who are now trying to remind fellow veterans that their missions mattered.

Flipping through pages of his photo album, former Army Sgt. Kevin LeBoeuf is looking back to the year he served in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2004 as an infantry leader. “That was the beginning of the war, so we were pretty much doing counter-insurgency and high-value target raids,” LeBoeuf said. “Essentially looking for Osama Bin Laden at the time.”

“I got that when I got out,” said former Army Specialist Eugenio Ramirez, pointing to his Fort Drum tattoo. He is also looking back to 2010 when he served a year in Afghanistan. “We were there to support their local government, we were there to support and to teach them, to protect their own.”

Neither of the vets says they were surprised to see the Taliban take back the country so quickly. “As soon as they saw us backing out as fast as we did, that’s when they started to take back what they wanted,” Ramirez said.

They say the reason for the fall came from Afghans not stepping up and supporting the government built with the help of the U.S. military over the last two decades. “That government needs support, it takes people to run the government,” LeBoeuf said.

He says public opinion on the U.S. role changed after Osama Bin Laden was killed. “We were there just occupying the country for those years afterward without really explaining why we were there.”

“Should we have been there as long as we were? No. But that was our job,” Ramirez said. He says he is reminding fellow vets that made it back home that their missions overseas mattered. “We can’t let what’s going on there affect what we did for them. Our brothers didn’t die in vain, they rose up and protected the freedom of both the U.S. and the locals,” he said.

Both men say they want to remind veterans that they are not alone and there is help if they need it.

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